Sultry, Sassy, Sophisticated Women

Has Being Sophisticated Gone Out of Style?

Sophisticated Women. Grandma, mom and aunts. Brown Betties

My Grandma Gordon (Alice) used to tell me to always be a lady. A preacher’s wife, she was a religious woman, tall and stout. She would have this “thinking look”on her face, that I do today, that my BFF calls my scrunchy face. But, when she smiled at you, the scrunchy went away and she smiled at you with her heart. In the early ’80s she sent me a card with a photo. She lived in Indianapolis and had been hired as a Kroger Greeter. The photo showed her with her wire-rimmed grandma glasses, with hair neatly pressed and pin-rolled in her grandma 40s-style rolls and she was smiling. Her trench hung neatly over her shoulders, her hands clasped demurely at her waist and a very large, blue-ribbon pin was planted on her shirt announcing her coveted position. She was so proud. And I’m sure she was hired because she was a lady.

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Grandma (Alice) Gordon  with my brother, Shakir

My mother’s mother, Grammy, (Alberta) is a different kind of lady. She lives in Kansas, worked at KU, wore pencil skirts and heels and stylish wigs and would often have a Pal Mal cigarette dangling from her long, painted fingers. She has four daughters (pictured above) she tended to. She taught me how to make cheesecake and would give me bits and pieces of costume jewelry and talk about makeup, because that’s what she loves to do. Grammy is also the type of lady who, when angry, could smile quietly and perhaps ask if she could talk to you for a moment and quietly cuss you the f*ck out; but quietly, in your ear, for you to hear with impassioned heat and personalized emphasis.

Grandma Alberta White Brown Bettie

Grammy (Alberta White)

Both of these ladies are sophisticated and taught me how to be such. My Grandma Gordon passed on, so I can only call on memories of her talking to me while smiling at me from her Chambers stove where she fried the best bacon and made the best eggs while coffee percolated on the kitchen table. I can luckily still call my Grammy whenever I want (sort of; it has to be before 8am or so, on Grammy time), and she will tell me about her doctor’s visits and call the doctor “that little so-n-so” and then giggle this giggle that we both know is only to keep the rest of the words she wants to say (or has already said privately during her appointment) trapped in mouth.

I try to live my life honoring these women. I try to cross my legs when seated in a restaurant. I try to speak with kindness, while being direct and honest. I try to wear lipstick, I try to keep do my nails on Sundays. I try to keep my shoes looking nice by fixing my heels when they get eaten up by these Prague cobble-stoned streets. I try to walk with my head high, shoulders back and with a small switch in my hip to let ’em know where I come from. I try to read the Financial Times, The New York Times and BuzzFeed so that I know what’s going on and can have intelligent conversations at dinner parties. I try to do these things that allow me to be a smart woman. A sophisticated woman with some sense, some compassion and some gosh-darn couth. I’m not as bold as my Grammy nor as pious as my Grandma Gordon, but I take plenty of pencil skirts and pin-rolls from them to help me be who I am. To me, this is being a Bettie.

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I can spot another Bettie a mile away. Maybe she’s got some grandmas swirling around her; maybe she’s self taught. But I can assure you that I almost always see her before I hear her, because her presence is that strong…that sophisticated. The women I associate myself with are this.

Brown Betties How to Be Sophisticated

Think about what makes *you* sophisticated, and be that. Today and (almost) everyday. Because being sophisticated has not gone out of style. You’re keeping it alive. Just in case you need some help, here are three (fun) tips to help you be sophisticated.

3 Tips to Be Sophisticated

  1. Show don’t tell.
  2. Treat people with respect.
  3. Chew with your mouth closed.

Thank you for reading this and for being a Bettie.

 

#BeYourOwnBettie

 

Don’t let perfection be a buzzkill

If you’re anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with perfection. Specifically, being perfect.

When you’re growing a business, a brand or even a baby, you can’t expect everything to go perfectly. It’s simply not going to happen and the more time you spend on things being perfect is more time not spent on growing and even enjoying what you’ve built. Not fun.

I have a need to please and a need to be liked and naturally, those needs can’t be executed without a dose of perfection sprinkled in as a shock-therapy motivator. At least, this seems to be true in the world that is my head space.

I do love doing things well. There’s nothing wrong with having pride in your work. However, I also love being creative and spontaneous. There’s really no way that you can be successfully creative and spontaneous when you’re worried about perfection.

This has come into play once again.

I started teaching a Cardio Cabaret Class at my friend Trina’s studio in Burbank, CA. It’s called Rock Star Dance Fitness. Fabulous. I love what Trina is doing. A dancer herself, and now wife and mom with two kids, she’s hustling like a passionate wild woman to create fitness programming that speaks to her community and to also create a non-profit foundation that helps the community beyond the dance studio. I don’t know how she does it, but she does and she has been grinding at it for several years. I’m proud to be teaching there.

We reconnected at Bettie Choreographer Tanya’s birthday last month. I’d approached Trina about doing BYOB workshops, and somehow I left the birthday happy hour basically agreeing to teach a dance class! Trina is that much of a hustler, baby.

Luckily, happily and thankfully I’d branched out into the world of teaching dance class with Brown Betties several years ago. We created a Cardio Cabaret Class at Meridian Sports Club in Hollywood. It was fun but it never really took off, so I abandoned it. And now, years later, I’m back to it!

I had some reservations about teaching. And for all the wrong reasons. I quickly focused on all the things I didn’t have. I was worried I didn’t have the perfect dance clothes or shoes. That I looked out of shape, and that I wasn’t jazzy enough. You know all the important things.

Fear is a great motivator, this is true. But when fear comes from irrational places like being perfect, it is no longer motivating, it is immobilizing.

So, once again, (and you know this is a common theme, and something I’m constantly working on), I sat down with myself and gave myself a talking to. I said, “Stop it. Just stop it. Don’t over-complicate things. Give yourself the time you need to make this work. Keep the moves simple. Keep it fun and you’ll have a great time.”

I’ve done that and it is working “perfectly”! I make mistakes, I forget counts like I’ve done my entire dance life, I mess up the sound system sometimes, but now I communicate my blunders to the class and we laugh along with them and keep it moving. I’m looking forward to growing with the women in the class and with myself in this new, yet familiar capacity. I love that this class is on-brand and that I’m incorporating music that was used in Harlem’s Night Cabaret (including my original songs like Hey Joe and Fever). We put red lipstick on before we get started, so we feel sultry. I have an empowerment theme for each class, so we feel sophisticated. And we swivel our hips a lot so that we feel sassy. Everything is working toward the greater good, and that is to make women feel confident, inspired and happy — a Bettie.

Cardio Cabaret
Tuesdays, 8:30p
Rock Star Dance Fitness
517 N. Glen Oaks Blvd
Burbank CA 91502

Click here for the schedule.

When Chris Rock is right.

I went to the very cool BET “META” (Media, Entertainment, Technology Alliance) event two weeks ago at Milk Studios here in Los Angeles. While I was there, I thought to myself, “Chris Rock was right!”

What’s this, you say? Peppur is friends with Chris Rock? No, I’m not friends with Chris Rock (yet?) but, years ago, he delivered this quote in an interview:

Success is a combination of opportunity meets preparation, and after awhile, your peers are in a position of power.

– Chris Rock

The quote stuck with me because, 1) I wanted to be successful like Chris Rock and figured I should listen to what he has to say, and 2) I wondered, what kinda power are we talkin’ about here?

As I’ve gotten older, and as my friends (peers) have risen higher in their fields, I see now what Chris Rock meant.

The META event was a two-day, invitation-only inaugural social impact conference convened by BET Networks. I attended the event with Betties Danielle and Tina on invitation from my friend and fellow Bettie, Crescent Muhammad, who had a hand in the event via her corporate position in life. She is the Managing Director of the Council of Urban Professionals (CUP in Los Angeles), who’s mission is to “inspire, elevate, and empower the next generation of diverse business and civic leaders…[by supporting] the career progression of professional women and people of color.”

Nice, right? 

I love that she was not only able to extend an invitation to this important event, but that she actually did. And I know why. She didn’t invite us there to kick it, she invited us there to rock it. Technically, she was doing her job to inspire, elevate and empower — us — but, what really happened is, she got us in the room. And that is super groovy.

BETTIES AT BET META EVENT #meta4change

(L-R) Peppur, Tina, Crescent, Danielle

For those that don’t know, “The Room” is essentially that playing space where stuff happens — where decision makers and people of influence mingle and air drop contact info like popcorn thrown easily into mouths at a Black Panther movie.

Getting in the room is called access.

Access is what you want. And I was there. Representing.

“BET Networks is uniquely positioned to convene thought leaders from across sectors for this timely dialogue about the power of media, entertainment and technology to positively impact the African American community,” said Scott Mills, President of BET Networks.

In an intimate setting, thought leaders like Brittany Packett, Jim Shelton, Donna Brazile, Hill Harper, Queen Latifa, Charles King, Lee Daniels and my personal friend, Cheryl  Grace of Nielsen came together to listen to one another, share information and uplift one another. In A Very Huge Way.

(L - R) Angela Rye, Donna Brazile, Judith Browne Dianis, Stafanie Brown James, and Derrick Johnson BET META EVENT

(L – R) Angela Rye, Donna Brazile, Judith Browne Dianis, Stafanie Brown James, and Derrick Johnson

For some women, simply being in the room is the leg up they need in order to succeed, because access often times is everything. Being in the room not only allows you the opportunity to witness first-hand what others are doing, but it also allows you to meet ‘n greet with people, to connect in a meaningful way, to show them what you’re workin’ with. To do business and get stuff done.

However, being in the room is just the beginning. It is then up to YOU to do the work from there, and that’s the preparation part Chris Rock referred to. For example, what good would it do for me to be in that room if I wasn’t then prepared with my own projects be it something related to Brown Betties and empowering women, scripts related to my novel or blog, or even having some practical current-events knowledge that can help keep a conversation going? It would be useless, and a pretty good reason for Crescent to not invite me to anything of value again until I had my rocks together.

I’ll admit, it took me a minute to get into a groove. I had a few moments of feeling intimidated by all the greatness, but as I leaned in I realized my greatness, too. No one else is like me, no one else is doing exactly what I’m doing in the way that I’m doing it. THAT is power, that is my currency and it’s up to me how I spend and invest it. So I got to work. I began delivering my personal pitch — that one that has me asking the right person for the right thing in this right time. As I got into it, I had a great time. I felt empowered, I felt inspired, I felt ready to do the damn thing – and so did Danielle and Tina, in their own entrepreneurial ways.

And then I realized something else, I think I was meant to be there. Here’s why:

I met two of my personal sheroes at this event, Beverly Bond and Amy DuBois Barnett. I had no idea they would be there.

(L-R) Panelists Brittany Packnett, Beverly Bond, and Michael Smith BET META EVENT

(L-R) Panelists Brittany Packnett, Beverly Bond, and Michael Smith – Source: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images North America, as found on Zimbio.com – Danielle and I are in the foreground. Very important photo here.

From 2004 on, Beverly has been an inspiration and career mirror to me via her brand Black Girls Rock! for young girls. She started BGR out of a need to see Black women in a positive light, the very same reason I started Brown Betties around the same time. I was able to tell her this, face-to-face which then prompted us to hug it out over our need to serve Black women and to exchange info. It was sheer icing that she’d actually heard of Brown Betties and our show; she knew of my work too.

Amy was the editor in chief of Honey, one of my favorite magazines of which I was an original subscriber back in the late 90s. She was/is also the first African-American woman to run a major mainstream magazine in the United States. The reason I blog and the reason I started the Brown Betties Gazette years ago is because I’ve always wanted a magazine that speaks to Black and Brown women. I told her this and now we follow each other on Instagram. #BigDeal.

By the way, these women became my sheroes because I believe this:

If you see it, you can be it.

There’s more:

Hill Harper worked out at Equinox gym when I worked front desk there and I’d have the Betties rehearse in the studios for our Harlem’s Night Cabaret show. You know I brought this factoid up to him and he said, “Wait, weren’t you all the group who had that show, the Brown Betties?” Yep.

Source: Getty Images North America at BET META EVENT

Hill Harper – Source: Getty Images North America as found on Zimbio.com

Queen Latifah was there and I told Danielle how I wrote Queen Latifah a letter back in the 90s; I’d read in an interview that she liked California Rolls and said I’d love to take her for lunch some time to chat (uh, why Peppur??) and that I’d take her for California Rolls. At the time I didn’t even know that was sushi! But, her career was one that I admired – I saw how her hard work was leading to success. And I wanted to be around that. I wanted to talk to her at META, to tell her that story. But I didn’t. Next time.

Charles King was there as well. He was an agent at the then William Morris Agency, where he started in the mail room. In the late ’90s, early 2000s, I met him at the American Black Film Festival in Miami and I told him I was a writer and that I would be seeking him out for representation. I had his card on my bulletin board for almost fifteen years as a reminder to keep working hard. I haven’t told him this story yet. Next time.

Being in that room reminded me of what I was and am trying to be. It gave me access to them and access to myself. It reminded me of my journey to success.

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Here in Bettie-land, I am creating a community of women that supports one another. What I have, you have be it an invitation or knowledge. I work to create programming that helps us and makes us better women, however that may translate individually. If you’re not a part of our community, I offer you to reach out to me and introduce yourself. I’ll do my best to give you access. To be a part of your story.

In the meantime, I offer these nuggets that I hope will be as influential to you as Chris Rock’s quote was to me:

  • Women need to help women; therefore, surround yourself with good women.
  • Women need to remember that we are powerful no matter at what level we’re currently operating.
  • Women (and men) rock when prepared for opportunity. This means from keeping your LinkedIN profile up-to-date, to having your hair and nails done, to keeping your blog or website current. Everything is a stepping stone. Everything you do is a marker toward your success; you may not realize it now, but it is. Be and stay prepared.

When Crescent invited me to META, I didn’t know what the event was, I simply said, “Yes” because it is important to do so. It’s important because I know she wouldn’t invite me if I shouldn’t be there, it’s important because I’m in a position of growth and one needs to meet people in order to grow, and I believe in the power of the unknown and taking risks. I was ready with my business cards, I was prepared mentally and I fixed my nails in the car. However this translates for you, do the same. Because #success.

 

Do you build a blog or build your life?

I had BIG plans for the month of May in Bettie-land!

Bettie Danielle

                                      Bettie Danielle with her daughter and our first Bettie Baby.

In honor of Mother’s Day, my plan was to feature our Betties who are also moms and to truly live it up this month in the blog and on our Facebook page by celebrating these women who are leading the family way. And then a few life things happened to derail me, which became good learning lessons for those out there trying to build a business or a blog!

The first thing:

While I proudly put my ask out for articles almost a month and a half in advance, I remembered quickly that moms are incredibly busy women. For moms to grab a moment to set one uninterrupted finger to a keyboard is an incredible feat; to get to fully write something cohesive is monumental! We hear this, we know this; even I lived it. Earlier this month, Bettie Keena and her husband entrusted me with watching their first born for a whole three hours. I showed up ready to watch and with laptop and book bag in hand. While I did take out the laptop and set it up, I never got a chance to write anything. My idea had been that I’d write while he slept, but then, instead, I basically stared at him during sleeping time to make sure he was still breathing and then during the rest of the time (to umm, make it easier on me), I decided to just hold him on my chest so he’d be closer for me to stare at in complete awe. Suddenly, my three hours were up and it was time to leave. Imagine this distraction happening every day, every hour in some form or fashion?

The lesson? People are building lives. In order to keep blog content coming, schedule out farther in advance, especially for tasks and for asks that are being made of busy people. And, in order to make this ask, you have to be that much more planned out yourself in order to make your deadlines and keep your business or your blog flourishing. This seems so rudimentary, but when things get busy and life starts happening, suddenly all of your time is eaten up and you’re left with nothing but a good idea that never got executed and that’s no fun.

The second thing:

I didn’t have a back up plan! Back in late March, I was so proud of myself to have been preparing for May that I didn’t think even further ahead to give myself a contingency plan nor did I factor in …

The third thing:

Plan for your own life. I knew I was going to Europe for three weeks in May. I did think that I’d be able to write and manage my life from Europe; there are outlets and internet there after all. However, my first week in Prague was eaten up with severe jet lag, brain fog and time spent in a few meetings for work and certainly pleasure. The second two weeks in Vienna and Spain were the actual vacation and as each date of the motherly month passed, I got more and more discouraged with myself and kept thinking, “Ugh, what’s the point now?”

My personal goal this year is to not beat myself up so much, so I’ll stop looking at the coulda shoulda’s and acknowledge that this month I chose to build my life rather than my blog. I’m also going to choose to be happy that I’m writing *this* helpful post on the last day of May in an effort to meet my Bettie goal of having new and meaningful content each month! Howeves, for those looking to start on this journey of building a brand and speaking to an audience, take time to heed my three things and take real time to make a planned out plan that keeps you on task, on schedule and full of happiness!

 

Málaga, Spain.

                                                    Málaga, Spain

 

 

What’s the biggest trick to beauty?

I love how nature is showing us her flawless beauty this Spring; I figured we should respond in kind. Therefore, this month in Bettie-land, we’ll focus on Beauty — both inside and out.

Beauty means alotta things to alotta people these days. You can’t scroll through Instagram without seeing a pretty-font message reminding you to love yourself!, put yourself first! and be confident! I’m not any different.

dangerously in love

The thing is, I do believe that you have to see your own beauty before you can fully show it to the world. It does absolutely nothing to have friends, family or strangers tell you you’re beautiful when you don’t believe it yourself.  I say this from experience.

The reason I started Betties was to remind myself and other women of our beauty. That it IS there, but you must see it for yourself first. This can get tricky, because you can’t cheat your way through this. You have to believe it 100%. (At least 98%!)

Indelible Ink - June 2012 pep

In case you’re looking for a way to ace your beauty,  we’re going to offer you some help this month because April is a month of new beginnings and unfolding.

My friend Ife’ Thomas is a woman of beauty. We met years ago in LA; she is a gorgeous singer…buttery, gooey, sensual gorgeousness pours out of her when she sings. She performed with the Betties for our cabaret shows where she lent us her magical voice. She has been a Bettie ever since.

Looking for a career boost, Ife’ (pronounced ‘ee-faye’) moved to the UK to attend Goldsmiths, University of London in 2014. While there she created Her Glow, a multi-service beauty and wellness brand. As far as I’m concerned, building this brand is a natural progression for this diva who’s look is always radiantly flawless. Ife’ is the woman who walks in the room and you’re like, “How does she do it?” Like really, HOW does she do it?

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Ife’ Thomas of Her Glow

When Ife’ would post on her Facebook, I was always asking, “What lip color is that?” What eyeshadow did you use here?” and so on. To answer these type of questions and to help others “glow” is now her business.

So, for the entire month of April, we will focus on beauty and how to “Get Her Glow” with beauty and wellness tips from my lovely friend and colleague. Be sure to check back each week for new videos with tips and tutorials where Ife’ where spill the beans on all that’s good and beautiful. At the end of the month, there will be a fun surprise for the Bettie community. (If you’re not already on the Bettie email list or have not liked the Brown Betties Facebook page, now is the time! Please subscribe and like today.)

Looking forward to being beautiful with you this month…and always.

 

 

 

 

How a Bettie goes global.

Meet Amanda Agate, she is the Program Coordinator of Global Curriculum in the University of Arizona’s Global Department. She’s also doing this while completing her MA in English Applied Linguistics in TESL from the College of English at UA. She graduates in May. And  this summer, thanks to her Fulbright-Hays Group Project award, she will participate in teacher training in China!

This is how you prepare yourself to have an international life.

Amanda is one of those women with chutzpah who always finds a way, so a few years ago when she was faced with a few choices post-collegiate graduation, she took to the airways and found herself in Prague where she became TEFL certified at The Language House TEFL. After having applied to a few programs and not getting into her program of choice she found herself at a total loss and feeling defeated. She found a job working with a family in Italy as a sort of in-home “help us with our English” au pair. When that gig was up, it was back to the states to get her Masters.

She’s our last installment for March where we are celebrating our International Betties. I I thought Amanda’s story would help motivate those looking to live and work internationally by showing yet another option of how to get there.

I’m so thrilled to hear that you’ve landed this job. You must be so excited!:

Yes I am! I actually love my job.

The University of Arizona has 25 “micro-campuses” around the world! It is actually amazing. We help bring different majors, studies, and educational options to people in so many places and it feels great. We partner with different institutes to help provide “American credited degrees” to 25 different countries almost. So all around, it is giving many life-changing opportunities to driven and motivated people, which makes my heart happy! ANYWAY, I am in charge of helping to create a curriculum for the work that they receive, EX: Checking over material and making sure that from an English Language Learner perspective its on point and to help curriculum become the most culturally sensitive as possible.

This semester I am also in charge of teaching three courses online for our Jakarta, Phnom Penh, and Qingdao students. So even though I am “stuck in one place” I am constantly interacting with people of different cultures. Over all, my heart is very happy.

We met in Prague, where you actually danced as the first group of International Brown Betties. (I remember you messaging on Facebook even before you arrived in Prague asking if you could be a Bettie.) Tell us about that whole experience?

I moved to Prague back in 2016. I had always loved to dance and had been a dancer my whole life. From the age of five I contributed to professional dance, competitive dance and different genres on companies throughout high school and college and I loved everything about it.

In college I wanted dance to be my major. So, after high school I moved to the third best dance school nationwide and worked towards that goal of having dance as my major. I worked for over a year in a half, spending a lot of time, money, and effort into dance. I continually auditioned and was continually told “No”. After several auditions I was finally told “Not to waste my time… my body type was just not made for what they were looking for in their program…. “ It crushed me at the time. That was my life plan… and now I had to find another one. I did not give up on dance as a hobby though. I had learned to improve my technique and continually discover myself through dance and experimental movement, but nothing gave me the confidence and power in being a capable, confident, and powerful human and woman like being a Bettie has…

When I was introduced to you and Nicole, I was hesitant about being a Bettie, I can’t deny. It was a different type of self-expression that I was not used to, even though I did feel as though I came from diverse experiences (little did I know). It can almost be viewed as intimidating to some — to see women so confident and comfortable, that is. But why was that intimidating? Maybe because we are not used to seeing women that confident? That didn’t seem right… And of course, I was drawn to it. The glamour, the sass, the confidence, the sisterhood, and everything in between. I wanted to be apart of that. I wanted to have that confidence and know myself that much to be able to so. Everything that a female wants, everything that a female needs to feel. What we all deserve to feel. Being a Bettie was a lifestyle, that I learned to love very quickly.

I continued to practice, rehearse, and perform with The Brown Betties for a year in Prague. Now you do have to understand, that someone living abroad is already going through so many natural epiphanies during their experimental time of living in a culture that is not their own. The Betties brought me such a comfort in being uncomfortable. No matter what happened — bad day, stressful day, great day — the sisterhood of the Betties was there at the ed of the day. It seemed like sisters, people, Betties all alike, would come together from right where they were, for one another. That really played a significant and positive in my experience living abroad.

I now continue to dance where I am geographically located in Tucson, Arizona. I graduate in two months with my master’s degree, which is not in dance. Which is also okay. I have found other loves as well as dance and to mix with dance. And I put them all together somehow in some beautiful way to make up who I am. Balancing your loves is what matters. Thank you for all the lesson that being a Bettie has taught me. Once a Bettie, always a Bettie.”

 

Follow Amanda and her global adventures here: https://www.instagram.com/shmanduh/

 

 

Main photo from UA Global.

How living abroad can be more than you ever dreamed.

We continue with words from our international women! Here is an interview with Juwana Jenkins, a singer from Philadelphia who has lived in Prague for over twenty years and now calls it her home.

As an international artist, you’ve had to learn to navigate language, place and self as you have followed your passion, dreams and business.  How do you find strength?

I’m driven and motivated to be my best self. Everyday I’m learning what that looks like and how that feels on that day under those unique circumstances, so learning is what gives me the greatest strength and motivation.

I’m absolutely enamored and enthralled by learning. I think it is the most magical thing on the planet. What made my head hurt and sapped my strength yesterday is the source of my wisdom, gratitude and positive energy today.

This virtuous cycle of learning by discovering and exploring whatever happens and experiencing gratitude and appreciation for life and the people that I’m blessed to encounter renews my hope and feeds my spirit.

That’s what a lot of my songwriting is inspired by. The blues, soul and gospel music that I sing shares the stories of my own challenges, struggles and journey and I’m so very humbled and inspired when people tell me how the songs reflect their own experiences and how it has given them strength in tough circumstances. I wrote “I Don’t Miss You” to express the bittersweet feeling of when my best friend, Bogdan, moved from Prague to Amsterdam, but the value of everything our love taught me has transformed me into a stronger and better person. Years later at a Gospel Mass held as a part of a Dutch Blues Festival, a father thanked me for dedicating that song to those who are no longer with us on Mother’s Day, because he had just lost his wife and it was his daughter’s first year without her mom.  

What scares you?

Not fulfilling my potential is what I’m most afraid of. “To fulfill the potential that I now possess” was what I actually wrote as my life’s ambition in my high school yearbook, hence the enchantment with learning. Early in my professional career, I realized that “I don’t know what I don’t know.” For that reason, I seek out and am grateful for the company of wise, caring professionals and friends who compassionately help me to get out of my own way.

My producer Steve Wash and other musicians have been so generous, gently giving me feedback about the small, simple details that make all the difference, like “sing to a metronome”, “sing like you speak,” and “you don’t sing the song–the song sings you.”  

Conversely,  what I am afraid of has actually become something that gives me strength as a catalyst for change, growth and improvement that benefits myself and others from what I learn from the experience.

What does Prague mean to you?

That desire to fulfill my potential is what led me to travel, move abroad and eventually settle in Prague in 1998. Ever since I was a fifth grader, Europe to me was the place that artists like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, went to be free to express themselves. Inspired by the tales of Josephine Baker, I moved to the Paris of the -East twenty-one years ago on a one-year teaching contract.

I was enchanted by the air of endless opportunities for an African-American female blues singer in the Heart of Europe with the possibility of working in Western and Eastern Europe while traveling to family and friends in the States or vacationing in Asia where I lived for four years before making Prague my home.

Prague has more than lived up to my youthful aspirations. I’ve had the honor of performing not only in the same theatre where Mozart debuted “Don Giovanni”, but also at some of Europe’s largest and most prestigious festivals, such as United Islands of Prague, Sumperk Blues Alive, and Suwalki Blues Festival, besides radio and TV appearances as well as acting roles for both the large and small screens. All of this has given me the opportunity to share my platform with the charities I support as a patroness while also relating my experiences as a panelist, speaker and facilitator for both nonprofit and corporate events.

In Prague, I really have crafted a tapestry of life, blending together the distinct parts of who I am that resonates with others to offer the greatest value from my unique talents, experiences and traits.   

What do you see for the future?

For these reasons, I’m happy to continue doing more of what I love for more people.

I’m excited that I’m being invited to perform both on my own as a solo artist as well as with my own band in places, such as Portugal, Holland, Latvia and Poland and am looking forward to sharing my own soul-blues, gospel infused sounds and uplifting music with more international collaborators. I’m honored and proud to be an ambassador for the blues, not only as a member of the European Blues Union, but also as the first blues performer some people have ever experienced live. The connections that I make with people at my shows are the inspiration for me to continue writing my own original music that I share on my YouTube channel and FaceBook page and the energy that radiates from the concert pics I post on my Instagram.

How has being a Bettie supported you in any way?

Being a Bettie has supported me by reminding me to connect with, celebrate and revel in the many facets of my own unique femininity.

Being a Bettie is a lifestyle, a life choice and a conscientiously conscious decision to live to my fullest.

Being a Bettie is a reminder to rise to the call to be my own woman, my own Bettie: Beautiful Effervescent Transformational Tantalizing Inquisitive Energizing.

Ms Bettie’s words ring true: what kind of Bettie you want to be is up to you– just be your own BETTIE.  

Want more?

Watch Juwana’s original short music film, “Long Time”:

http://bit.ly/LTsmftz

 Follow Juwana online:

http://www.juwanajenkins.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JuwanaJenkins/

https://www.instagram.com/juwanajenkins/

Spotlight: One beautiful Bettie.

Happy Women’s Day to all of you today and everyday!

I’m personally highlighting the wonderful Zeina who was my student while I was teaching at Prague College.

She is fantastic and I’m choosing to honor her today.

She is a Syrian journalist in Prague, author of three books for children, a film critique, and an activist.

All my love,

Ms Bettie

 

Instagram: kanawatizeina

Website of her documentary film: https://zeinakana.wixsite.com/taste-of-homeland

Article: https://thefeeduneed.com/whats-wrong/vacation-in-a-war-zone/

Article in Czech: https://www.divadelni-noviny.cz/pulmesic-na-prazskem-nebi

How a Bettie from Bosnia sees things.

International Bettie contributor Masa Hilcisin is a dynamic woman, raised in Bosnia and living in Prague. An educator, humanitarian, filmmaker, mother and artist (among many other titles), here is what she poetically had to say when asked about what it means to her to help women heal through art … and to be a Bettie.

There is her gaze

Look into the memory. There is her gaze, gaze of the past, gaze of vulnerability, gaze which explores borders, gaze which knows when to say “no”, gaze which follows layers of paint, happiness and sorrow…gaze which follows her-story, her-saying of stories that are yet to be exposed…gaze which fights for magic, beauty, exchange…Exchange of her voice with the rest of us, with the rest of you, exchange of her texture, exchange of her tones, exchange of intimate and particular nuances of life…Do you see her stunning composition gleamed by translucent light? Do you hear sound, her music which comes from thick texture, from harmonic dance of her-stories? Do you feel her vivid dance as she binds up, disappearing and emerging again? Do you feel the pulse of her visual surfacing as she holds and reveals the pain?

There she is; she uses canvas, words, tones, dance, papers, paints, fabrics, frame to compose stories of freedom, to compose stories of shame, to compose stories of immigration, to compose stories of guilt, to compose stories of motherhood, to compose stories of home, to compose stories of sacrifices, to compose stories of wars, to compose stories of heart, to compose personal, vivid and boundless parts of her-self. There she is; she uses script, scream, silence, touch, tangible realm, to share intimate, to share personal, to share a particular part of her-own life.

And there she meets Bettie who was another gaze, gaze of magic, gaze, of beauty, gaze of exploration, gaze of subtle approach, gaze of deep knowing, gaze of irresistible sexuality, gaze of her own body, gaze of openness, gaze of wisdom, gaze of teaching, gaze of her sassiness, gaze of her freedom, gaze of her journey, gaze of her own growth, gaze of laugh, gaze of dance, gaze of dance, gaze of dance, gaze of dance…

Do you see personal space, public space which she uses to share her-own private self with you, with us?

And I am one of you. One who shares her own art, one who explores, one who experienced immigration, sacrifices, love, pain, love, motherhood, pain, love, war, intensity, surviving, pain, love, growing, emerging, pain, love…One who adores to share your art, art of you great women artists, art of your beings, art of your voices…your paints, your sculptures, your sounds, your images, your creations, your beauties, your sorrows, your strengths…One who keeps following you in personal and public spaces, sharing your voices, sharing her own voice in beautiful synergy of art and dance, and festivals, and galleries…in endless journey of your own creative beauties…where your art, her-art keep flowing, keep emerging, keep dancing, keep dancing, keep dancing, keep dancing…

If you’d like to support Masa in her drive to help others with women and visual storytelling in Mexico, please click here!

How to be an International Woman.

My first international trip was a 9th-grade exchange trip to France. We visited Kenosha’s sister city, Douai in the north and also spent time in Paris. This trip was life-changing for tons of reasons, one being that it was the catalyst for me to get my first job. I had to earn the money to go; thank you 5:00 am biscuit-making shift at the McDonald’s on Sheridan Road! In spite of that trip being a life-changing experience, it took me over thirty years until I traveled abroad again.

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At the Eiffel Tower with classmates

Theater got me to Prague, becoming certified to teach English at The Language House TEFL allowed me to stay. During my three years in the Czech Republic, I met some amazing, international women who changed my outlook on life. I was introduced to khachapuri by a friend from Georgia; from a woman from Egypt, I listened first-hand to stories about the war in Syria and how it has separated her family; I taught alternative teaching methods to female teachers from Kazakhstan; I visited a dear friend in her home country of Croatia, whom I met while modeling in a Chicago hair show.  I am forever changed by these experiences because it taught me who I was through their eyes and their lives. And now, I too, am an international woman.

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Teachers from Kazakhstan

I do encourage you to travel. Find a way. I never thought I would go to Prague. But, it happened. Back in 1997, in spite of her telling me I would, I never thought I’d meet my friend Mia in Croatia. When I left Paris as a 15 year-old girl, I never thought I would get back there, but I did. Whether you’re in the early part of your twenties, where you’re not sure what’s going to happen to you next and things are up in the air…or approaching your mid-forties and you’ve followed several paths to get to where you are now, yet still don’t know what to do next, travel may be your answer.

If you don’t have the immediate resources to travel and see places first-hand, you can certainly be exposed to international culture locally. All you need to do is to look. Visit the consulate in your area to find events, community centers and perhaps language classes to enrich yourself. Look for InterNations and join; this organization is a community of international expats and offers a multitude of events and resources. There are branches in LA, Chicago, Houston, Mexico City, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Toronto and more! Or, go to MeetUp.com and search for folks like you who want to experience good times with language, art, food or fun from different cultures. Go ahead, look for the international inspiration you seek, or create your own. By the way, until you can plan your trip and buy your ticket, you can always travel through food! This post inspired me to find a place in LA that made Khachapuri! #devouredit

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This month, in honor or International Women’s Month, we’ll feature guest contributor articles from our International Betties, Masa Hilcisin, Juwana Jenkins, Zeina Kanawati and hopefully Vi Huyen Tran. These are all women who have participated in the Be Your Own Bettie workshop, thus giving them a special Bettie badge. More than that, I hope that what they share will help you know that their lives are not so far away from yours. I also hope that you’ll be inspired to perhaps visit their homes and become…international.

I’m incredibly honored to have been able to spend time in their presence; to soak up whatever it was that the Universe wanted me to learn from them and vice versa. I hope you enjoy their words.

When pleasing yourself is phenomenal.

It was a self-deprecating morning.  I looked in the bathroom mirror and I didn’t like my hair.  I didn’t like my dry morning lips.  I didn’t like my puffy face.  Hell, I didn’t even like my pajamas.   There was nothing positive about my reflection.  Except, I was aware.  I was aware of the dislike and the understanding that none of these physical traits defined me.  And I immediately thought, “Beauty is a feeling, baby.”  And from that, a poem and ultimately spoken word piece called “BeautiFULL” was born.  I wrote it in less than ten minutes and from there, t’was a great day…a day all about self-love.

Many of the new experiences I seek in life come from that place.  A place where I consciously acknowledge the beast of a beauty that I really am and decide that she needs something worthy of her magnificence.  Something that speaks to who she has evolved into and how fantastic it is that she’s made it this far.  Several years ago, that new experience was pole dancing.

I walked into a friend’s pole dance studio with all the confidence in the world.  Mainly because I had been a professional dancer and choreographer for decades and figured this would be another credit on my resume of fabulousness.  Well, my confidence shifted.  Not to a place of doubt, but to a place of readiness.  After one hour-long class, I knew that I had a challenge on my hands.  I wasn’t strong enough to do many of the tricks and spins I saw the instructors doing and I knew that I would have to access other parts of my body and mind to master them.  And I was all for it.  I stripped down to my sports bra and booty shorts, and I became a student…again.

The first month was brutal.  Three classes a week and a new bruise to mark every class.  But I was dedicated.  Three classes a week and new calluses destroyed my pristine hands.  But I kept going.  Three classes a week and soreness unlike I’ve ever felt racked my body.  But I got better.

The feeling of capability one gets from mastering a new pole trick is somewhat indescribable.  You literally feel like Superwoman and you start to believe anything is possible.  And you begin to love yourself for the progress.  You also tap into this wonderful, hidden power that you never knew you had.  Sex.  Sexuality.  And not for the pleasure of anyone else, but for yourself.  You begin to see yourself as a powerhouse and understand why the sacred feminine is a beast.  No matter the weight or body type or physical traits, SHE is phenomenal.  And SHE deserves to give and be loved.  And again, not from anyone else but from herself.   To acknowledge the strength and capability of the body is phenomenal.  To know that resilience and spirit can overcome any fear is phenomenal.  To look at your own reflection and see your ideal self is phenomenal.  And to embrace your sexuality and its power is doubly phenomenal.

Since that first pole class, I’ve embarked on many new, exciting journeys revolving around embracing my physical and sexual beauty.  Recently it was the Be Your Own Bettie workshop.  A few hours of camaraderie with other women acknowledging the sassy, sultry, sophisticated parts of ourselves, complete with self-reflection and champagne.  It was another marvelous act of self-love that I consciously bestowed upon myself as a gift for the New Year.  And that to me is what love of self, means.  Taking time to acknowledge your own power, your own beauty and generously giving to yourself with time, effort, thoughtfulness and no regret.  It has been a wonderful journey, sometimes with self-deprecating moments that taught me that there is always greatness brewing inside and it just takes a moment of self-awareness to remember to give love to the person in the mirror.

– by Tanya Alexander (originally titled “Mirror Image”)

 

To learn more about Tanya, please click or follow below.
www.TanyaAlexander.net
Instagram @Tanya.Alexander
Facebook.com/TanyaAlexanderArtist
Twitter @supernovat
Download the poem “BeautiFULL” at www.cdbaby.com/cd/tanyaalexander2